Man jailed for submitting multiple false insurance claims to AXA on damaged luggage

Goh Tian Lee recycled photos of a damaged silver Rimowa bag when submitting multiple fraudulent claims. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - A man was jailed for seven weeks on Wednesday (Oct 21) for submitting multiple false travel insurance claims on his damaged luggage to cheat AXA Insurance of more than $3,000.

Goh Tian Lee, 52, admitted that he had deceived the insurance company into believing that his Rimowa luggage had been damaged because of mishandling on various flights.

The court heard that Goh made these fraudulent claims on multiple occasions by submitting the same photos of a damaged silver Rimowa piece of luggage.

Goh pleaded guilty to three charges of cheating on Wednesday (Oct 21) involving $1,600. Two other related cheating charges involving $1,775 were taken into consideration in his sentencing.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Jane Lim said that Goh had first made a successful claim based on photographs of a damaged silver Rimowa bag, which included close-up shots of a damaged wheel bracket and a dent on the suitcase's side.

He recycled the same photos to submit multiple fraudulent claims.

In an attempt to make it seem like he was making claims for different pieces of luggage altogether, Goh peeled off several stickers on the Rimowa bag to make the photographs look more legitimate.

In August 2018, he filed a claim stating that his luggage had been damaged due to mishandling on a Singapore Airlines flight from Vietnam to Singapore. AXA disbursed $800 to Goh at the time.

Goh filed another claim in March 2019, after returning to Singapore from a trip to Myanmar on Feb 28 that year. He once again used recycled photos of the bag that he had already been compensated for, and claimed that it had been damaged due to mishandling on a Myanmar National Airlines flight he had taken in February 2019.

For this false claim, Goh received another $800 from AXA.

He subsequently filed another false insurance claim in September 2019, claiming again that his luggage had been damaged due to mishandling on a return flight on Singapore Airlines from Myanmar.

This time, AXA did not disburse the funds to him, and conducted internal checks, as Goh had made more than four separate claims within nine months.

The company found similarities in the photos Goh had submitted for all his travel insurance claims, which raised suspicion.

When AXA contacted Goh and asked for further photographic evidence of the damaged luggage, Goh lied and said that he had disposed of the luggage when he had not. The Rimowa luggage in question was later found in Goh's home.

He also told AXA , when questioned, that he would "not consider dealing with them in the future, if they did not expedite his claim".

AXA lodged a police report against Goh on Oct 15, 2019.

DPP Lim said that Goh's offences were clearly planned and premeditated. They were also not one-off offences, as they had taken place repeatedly over a substantial timeframe of over a year.

"The accused had become emboldened by the fact that he found it easy to make such claims, and deliberately planned to make subsequent claims. He also reoffended multiple times and was intending to continue until he was caught," DPP Lim said.

The DPP asked for a deterrent sentence, as the offences Goh committed involved a financial institution, and concerned the delivery of economic and financial services.

Defence lawyer Audrey Koo said in her mitigation plea that Goh had realised the error of his ways and was remorseful, and that he had made full restitution to AXA.

In a statement issued after the case, Mr Ho Kai Weng, chief executive of the General Insurance Association of Singapore (GIA), said the association works in close collaboration with the police's Commercial Affairs Department.

"Members of the public play an important role in mitigating insurance fraud. If you are approached to participate in insurance fraud or have first-hand information, report it to the GIA Insurance Fraud Tip-off scheme and receive a cash reward of up to $10,000 if the information provided leads to a successful conviction," Mr Ho said.

For cheating offences, one can be jailed for three years, fined, or both.

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